Rare Earths MMI: GM, GE Renewable Energy sign MoU to develop rare earth supply chain

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The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) bounced back, rising by 11.6% this month.

October 2021 Rare Earths MMI chart

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GM, GE Renewable Energy aim to develop rare earths supply chain

Automaker General Motors and GE Renewable Energy have signed a memorandum of understanding through which they will seek to develop a supply chain for rare earths and other materials needed for electric vehicles and renewable energy.

The parties will “evaluate opportunities to improve supplies of heavy and light rare earth materials and magnets, copper and electrical steel used for manufacturing of electric vehicles and renewable energy equipment,” GM said earlier this month.

Initially, they will focus on a Europe- and North America-based supply chain for vertically integrated magnet manufacturing.

“A secure, sustainable and resilient local supply chain for electric vehicle materials is critical to the execution of GM’s vision of an all-electric future,” said Shilpan Amin, GM vice president for Global Purchasing and Supply Chain. “Motors are one of the most important components of our Ultium Platform, and the heavy and light rare earth materials are an essential ingredient in our motor magnets. The combined scale of GM and GE will enable us to unlock the potential for securing low-carbon footprint, ESG-friendly, secure and cost competitive materials.”

Furthermore, the parties will evaluate “potential cooperation to support the development of new technologies and processes for both automotive and renewable power generation applications.”

Lynas releases FY 2021 annual report

Lynas Rare Earths Ltd., the largest rare earths firm outside of China, recently released its fiscal year 2021 annual report.

The Australian firm reported record profit of $157 million.

“During the year Lynas benefited from favourable market conditions and growing demand for our products,” Chairman Kathleen Conlon said in the report. “Globally, demand for electric vehicles and wind energy has accelerated and high growth in demand for NdFeB magnets contributed to growth in demand for Lynas’ NdPr product family and mixed Heavy Rare Earths.”

At its Mt. Weld rare earth deposit, Lynas reported proved ore reserves of 13.9 million metric tons. Furthermore, it reported contained rare earth oxides of 1.57 million metric tons.

Industry group outlines plan to secure rare earths for European industry

Given China’s overwhelming dominance of the global rare earths mining and processing markets, governments, companies and industry groups in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere have ramped up efforts to build new supply chains.

Rare earths are used in a variety of high-tech capacities, from consumer electronics to renewable energy to military applications. As such, the aforementioned groups are keen to wean themselves off of dependence on China.

Late last month, the European Raw Materials Alliance outlined a plan to secure access to rare earth elements for European industry.

“More than 90% of rare earth magnets are produced in China today: this high production concentration in combination with rising global political tensions and a growing Chinese domestic market demand – particularly driven by a growth in electric mobility – results in a high supply risk for these materials from a European perspective,” ERMA said. “In addition, there is a lack of supply chain transparency, standards and certification schemes regarding environmental and social impacts and governance.”

In the 38-page report, titled “Rare Earth Magnets and Motors: A European Call for Action,” ERMA noted China exports 16,000 metric tons of rare earth permanent magnets to Europe each year, accounting for 98% of the E.U. market.

“So far, ERMA has identified 14 projects from mine and urban mine to magnet (invest volume of €1.7 billion) which would form the foundation of a European rare earths industry, capable of delivering 20% of EU demand by 2030 – to prime a downstream market of €400 billion and 6 million jobs in the EU27 mobility and automotive industries alone,” the group said.

Furthermore, it noted that despite “significant” rare earth reserves in Europe, no rare earth mining takes place in Europe.

Action items

ERMA outlined 12 action items that will help build the European rare earths supply chain.

Among them, it called for European investment toward becoming a world leader in the “circular economy of rare earths.” Similarly, it emphasized facilitating access to finance for rare earths projects across the value chain.

In addition, ERMA called on the European Commission to help create a level playing field so European producers can compete with Chinese competitors.

“There is a need to provide incentives for magnet producers for each magnet produced and sold in the EU,” ERMA said. “Otherwise, no private company would start to invest and run a profitable business in the mass market production of magnets in Europe.”

Furthermore, the E.U. should conduct a study of the key determining factors for the production of sustainable rare earth magnets, ERMA added.

Actual metals prices and trends

The Chinese terbium oxide price rose by 12.7% month over month from 7,850 CNY to 8,850 CNY as of Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, the neodymium oxide price held flat at 617,500 CNY.

Lastly, the dysprosium oxide price jumped from 2,560 CNY to 2,710 CNY.

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